The NBA restart has been less than ideal for the Philadelphia 76ers, and now they enter an intense playoff series against a bitter rival.
One of the biggest storylines, if not the most significant storyline, ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers’ matchup against the Boson Celtics is the absence of Sixers superstar Ben Simmons. Simmons, who injured his left knee against the Washington Wizards, has been deemed out for the season after an optimistic initial reaction.
Regardless, not having Simmons is yet another terrible thing in a tumultuous year for Philadelphia.
Despite all of the talk around Simmons’ shooting, he is still Philadelphia’s third-leading scorer. He drops eight assists per game and is shooting 71 percent at the rim. With Boston being as undersized as they are right now, Simmons would have been able to punish defenders inside.
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We all know that Ben has his limits offensively. However, he brings something on that side of the floor that nobody else on the roster can replicate — speed.
Ben’s speed is unfathomable for a man of his size. Couple that with his defensive prowess (more on that in a bit), and the Sixers find themselves with easy transition buckets often. This is something that fans will be able to notice right away. Mattise Thybulle probably won’t have those easy breakaway two-handed slams because Simmons is not out there to start the break.
Ultimately the series will come down to Joel Embiid. If you look at each of the four regular-season games the teams played, the Sixers won when Embiid played well. With Simmons on the court, though, it took some attention away from Embiid. Boston has struggled with defending Philadelphia’s size this season, and Simmons is a significant part of that size advantage. Outside of one game — in which Embiid was utterly dominant — Simmons scored over 19.
The 76ers will miss Simmons the most on the defensive side of the court. Jayson Tatum has struggled against the Sixers this year, and that was, primarily, due to the defense of Ben Simmons. Without Simmons on the court, who will guard Tatum? The smaller Josh Richardson? The young Mattisse Thybulle? Tobias Harris? Likely, it will be a combination. However, no Sixer other than Simmons has guarded Tatum more than 20 times this season.
Despite his young age, Simmons has playoff experience that the Sixers cannot replace right now. Shake is essentially in his rookie season, and Raul Neto (who, in my opinion, should not see the court), has less than 50 career points in the postseason in 20 postseason appearances.
This series would be tough for Philadelphia regardless, but without Simmons, it just became a whole lot more complicated.